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Updated: 2 hours 20 min ago

University of Houston Law Center launches publication aimed at undergrad students interested in law school

3 hours 28 min ago

The University of Houston Law Center debuted Aspiring Lawyer, a publication dedicated to undergraduate students nationwide interested in attending law school.

Aspiring Lawyer will feature insights, tips, success stories, and guidance for pre-law students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds.

“I am delighted that we have established the Aspiring Lawyer magazine which will provide helpful hints and advice for students who plan to be lawyers,” said Leonard M. Baynes, dean of the University of Houston Law Center, in a press release. “UH Law Center has always provided a pathway to the profession for law school students of all backgrounds. It’s only rational for us to produce this magazine so that as many people as possible know that a legal education is within their reach and to help them achieve their dreams.”

Aspiring Lawyer is a complement to UH Law Center’s Pre-Law Pipeline Program. The Pipeline Program has four tracks and a history of excellence. Eighty-two scholars have been accepted to law school and have received $5,434,229 in scholarship funds.

To read Aspiring Lawyer, go to law.uh.edu/aspiringlawyer/.

For more information about the University of Houston Law Center, go to law.uh.edu.

In Memoriam – September 2021

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 10:48

The State Bar of Texas’ Membership Department was informed in September 2021 of the deaths of these members. We join the officers and directors of the State Bar in expressing our deepest sympathy.

David Adams, 86, of Nacogdoches, died May 8, 2021. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1961.
Douglas Baker, 68, of Seymour, died August 22, 2021. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1983.
Barbara Barron, 70, of Austin, died August 5, 2021. She received her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1977.
Clarence B. Brown III, 52, of Dallas, died September 3, 2021. He received his law degree from Emory University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1994.
Frank T. Crews Jr., 88, of Rancho de Taos, New Mexico, died September 12, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1963.
Bill Edwin Davis, 74, of League City, died August 26, 2021. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.
Jeffrey Scott Davis, 53, of Cleburne, died August 29, 2021. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1993.
Edwin J. Dietrich, 95, of Houston, died August 18, 2021. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1958.
Scott R. Donaho, 91, of Floresville, died November 23, 2020. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1983.
Jeffrey Lee Dorrell, 66, of Houston, died August 23, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1993.
Wilbur Dunten, 80, of League City, died September 2, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1971.
Louisa F. Duva, 57, of Cuba, Illinois, died July 3, 2021. She received her law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1990.
Marvin B. Eickenroht, 94, of Houston, died April 9, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1950.
Paul Fanning, 76, of Tyler, died August 9, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.
John Lynn Fischer, 79, of The Woodlands, died September 4, 2021. He received his law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1970. Fischer was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 1966.
Redrick B. Fogle Jr., 82, of Houston, died September 15, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1963.
John J. Franco Jr., 83, of San Antonio, died August 27, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Mississippi Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1980. Franco was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 1960.
David W. Gaughan, 72, of Missouri City, died July 5, 2021. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1979.
James F. Gilbert, 88, of Dallas, died August 27, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1959.
W.C. Gowan Jr., 89, of Dallas, died September 8, 2021. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1959.
Larry W. Green, 79, of Greenville, died September 10, 2021. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
Jack Gulledge, 83, of Dallas, died March 6, 2021. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1969.
William E. Hailey, 95, of San Antonio, died April 9, 2018. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1949.
Susan J. Haney, 66, of Austin, died August 12, 2021. She received her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
Tohnie E. Hynds, 70, of Sherman, died September 2, 2021. She received her law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1976.
Ronald J. Johnson, 72, of San Antonio, died August 30, 2021. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1978.
James Charles Larkin Jr., 86, of Houston, died August 25, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1964.
James W. McCartney, 91, of Houston, died September 18, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1952.
Michael T. McSpadden, 77, of Houston, died September 7, 2021. He received his law degree from University of Oklahoma College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1977.
Gurney Ray Miller Jr., 82, of Corpus Christi, died July 12, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1963.
Kelly Morrison, 61, of McKinney, died August 25, 2020. He received his law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2016. Morrison was admitted to practice in Ohio in 1985.
Bailey C. Moseley, 77, of Marshall, died September 13, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1970.
Stephen Wayne Nash, 65, of Missoula, Montana, died March 31, 2021. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1996.
Michael C. O’Connor, 75, of Houston, died September 13, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1970.
Michael Allen Peters, 76, of Prescott, Arizona, died July 23, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
David Eugene Pickett, 81, of Aledo, died September 15, 2021. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1969.
Victor R. Scarano, 85, of Houston, died July 18, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Florida College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1995. Scarano was admitted to practice in Pennsylvania in 1990.
S. Gail Sisson, 67, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, died August 18, 2021. She received her law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1994.
Eunice E. Smith, 82, of San Antonio, died August 30, 2021. She received her law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.
Joseph Hardin Staley Jr., 84, of Dallas, died September 11, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1964.
Chas H. Steib, 78, of Chesterfield, Missouri, died May 22, 2021. He received his law degree from Saint Louis University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973. Steib was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1970.
Gary Stell, 62, of Dallas, died August 22, 2021. He received his law degree from Louisiana State University Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
Wesley Benton Sullivant, 52, of Galveston, died September 6, 2021. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1997.
Jay D. Terry, 90, of Sugar Land, died August 17, 2021. He received his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1981. Terry was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar in 1957.
Thomas W. Umphrey, 85, of Beaumont, died September 7, 2021. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1965.
Bobby J. Waggoner, 75, of San Antonio, died August 28, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1971.
James Wasson, 80, of Kerrville, died November 7, 2018. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1971.
Steven Weinberg, 78, of Colleyville, died August 20, 2021. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1989.
Gordie L. White II, 81, of Lakeway, died July 30, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1968.
Carolyn Whitefield, 75, of Texarkana, Arkansas, died March 10, 2021. She received her law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974. Whitefield was admitted to practice in Arkansas in 1973.
John Lea Williford, 84, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, died June 2, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1960.
Walter Paul Wolfram, 89, of Amarillo, died September 1, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1956.
George T. Wommack Jr., 76, of Lake Jackson, died September 9, 2021. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1969.

If you would like to have a memorial for a loved one published in the Texas Bar Journal, please go to texasbar.com/memorials. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Texas Bar Journal at 512-427-1701 or toll-free at 800-204-2222, ext. 1701.

A New Lawyer’s Perspective on Practicing Appellate Litigation

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 08:59

Every first-year attorney enters their respective practice area with a fine balance of fear and confidence. Ideally, we have spent at least some time clerking for the same firm or in the same field. However, if you are like me, you may have spent your entire law school career clerking for civil trial firms only to unexpectedly land in a different practice area. The purpose of this article is to articulate my experience practicing appellate litigation thus far and a few valuable skills I have picked up along the way.

Moot Court Is Called “Moot” for a Reason, and Less Is More
On my first day at a boutique law firm, I was immediately given an appellant brief assignment. While I was fully aware of my lack of real-world appellate experience, I naively thought my several years of moot court experience through the law center would give me a leg to stand on. This delusion was quickly put to rest by a colleague when she said, “Yeah, you can pretty much throw all of that out the window . . .” or something along those lines. And she was right. The truth of the matter is moot court fact patterns are artfully designed to give both parties equal statutory and caselaw support. Unfortunately, the legal cookie rarely crumbles so neatly. In fact, and especially as the appellant (or applicant in a writ of habeas corpus), both the law and the facts are often heavily against our client’s position. The law tends to view judgments in the trial court as final and only reversible in rare cases.
Simply put, approaching a real-world legal issue with mock-world solutions does not cut it. Additionally, the traditional moot court repetitive, formulaic, and often lengthy writing style will likely merit a quick skim by an appellate panel, with important issues potentially overlooked. Thus, entering this practice with the mindset of, “I probably don’t know what I’m talking about,” will save valuable hours of corrections from your boss. Sure, you will need those research and writing skills you learned in law school, but for the finished product, expect lots of feedback and learn from it. More importantly, try not to be married to your writing.

Take Notes . . . Lots and Lots of Notes!
One of the greatest benefits (in my opinion) of working for a boutique firm is the amount of exposure new attorneys receive to legal practice. In short, you can probably expect to begin drafting your first brief within days (or even hours) of your arrival. The downside to this model, however, is instead of the traditional 6-to-10 levels of accountability found at larger firms, there may only be one or two experienced attorneys who review and edit your work before filing.
If you find yourself in this situation, take a deep breath and start using those note-taking skills you learned in law school. As most of us have probably heard at this point, it is OK to make mistakes, especially as a new attorney, but try to avoid making the same mistake twice. My advice? Start writing the important stuff down, make a checklist for different filings, and always work off a good template.

Balance Self-Sufficiency With Reasonable Questions
In the world of boutique firms, fewer resources mean less time. As a new attorney at such a firm, I do not have a paralegal or secretary that works strictly for me, and the ones we do have are just as busy (if not more so) than the attorneys. Most importantly, my boss’s time is extremely valuable. Because of this, it’s important to find a balance between self-sufficiency, time efficiency, quality work, and of course, learning the trade.
Fortunately, this is a skill that can be learned, and one I find I am still learning. However, for any given project, my goal is always to submit quality work as efficiently as possible. When I find myself facing an unfamiliar project, it’s important to determine (1) whether the issue is one I can likely find the answer to on my own; (2) if so, how long will it probably take; (3) how much time should I spend trying to figure this out myself; and (4) if I cannot find the answer myself, who is the best person to ask? More times than not, I can find these issues on my own. However, the other three are skills you should learn as quickly as possible. As an appellate attorney, you earn your worth by becoming more self-sufficient and efficient every day, but in this line of work, you should never sacrifice quality for efficiency. Learn what to ask and when to ask it, and most importantly, when you receive an answer, learn from it.

Austen Smith is an associate of Clouthier Law, an appellate litigation firm in The Woodlands.

Important information for attorneys with an IOLTA account at PNC Bank (previously BBVA)

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 13:30

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, administrator of the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, or IOLTA, program, has become aware of issues related to mobile banking at PNC Bank (previously BBVA) that have resulted in lawyers being unable to view their IOLTA account. If you are an attorney with an IOLTA account at PNC Bank (previously BBVA), you should have received an email today from the foundation with steps to take to access your IOLTA account.

State Bar of Texas statement on reports of IOLTA account issues

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 13:59

The State Bar of Texas is aware of reports that some lawyers have temporarily lost access to their IOLTA accounts due to issues outside their control related to a bank merger. The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, which administers the Texas IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account) program, is in contact with the bank in order to remedy this situation.

At-large directors sought for State Bar of Texas Board of Directors

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 10:25

The State Bar of Texas is accepting nominations for at-large director positions on the Board of Directors. Two positions will become vacant in 2022.

At-large directors are appointed by the president of the State Bar subject to board confirmation. In making the appointments, the president is required to appoint directors who demonstrate knowledge gained from experience in the legal profession and community necessary to ensure the board represents the interests of attorneys from the varied backgrounds that compose the membership of the State Bar of Texas.

The deadline for nominations is December 1. Read the call for nominations here and find more information at texasbar.com/atlarge.

 

Sponsored Content: The History (and Future) of Electronic Signatures

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 23:01

It wasn’t long ago that executives were using ink and a rubber stamp to “sign” documents. In an effort to speed the process of signing, they would entrust their stamp to another “authorized user” who could stamp or “sign” documents on their behalf. The premise was that if the person had physical access to the stamp pad, then they must be an approved user and have the authority to sign agreements or other legal documents.

The Questionable Signature

Fast forward to the even more not-so-distant past and you will find electronic documents that were “signed” when someone added a signature image to the document. Anyone can drop a JPEG onto a contract, although the assumption is that if they have access to the signature file, then they must be authorized to sign on the individual’s behalf. This is where the process breaks down. There is no quick and easy way to verify that the individual or someone they authorized was the actual signor of a document. No audit trail or metadata exists to prove whether it was an approved, authorized signature and not a fake.

We continue to see these short cuts in the signature process all the time. As lawyers, it is our responsibility to make a reasonable argument to a court about why we believe a signature is valid. You may find yourself making logical arguments such as, it came from the correct email address or domain, it was the correct draft, or it included what appeared to be a valid written signature. Electronic signature images on electronic documents make it harder to validate that it was the person who affixed it themselves or someone authorized to do so on their behalf.

Digital signatures are another type of electronic signature; however, they are like having a fingerprint on the document. They are tied to a certificate that always includes an audit trail which means that at any point, you can see when it was sent, who received it, what time, etc. Additionally, the signature itself is time and date stamped automatically, giving you something to follow and provide proof that the signor was who they said they were. This trail is so clear, that digital signatures are rarely contested and are accepted in most courts thanks to the clear chain of custody from sending to signing.

6 Essential Reasons to Have A Digital Signature Fingerprint On Your Side

What makes a digital signature service an absolute requirement for any legal professional or law firm? As you know, inclusive of contracts, any transactional document that needs a signature must withstand scrutiny in court. Everything from real estate transactions and acquisitions, to wills and trusts, estate directives, etc. must include an authorized signature that can be certified or validated in the court of law.

Here are 6 reasons why a law firm or legal professional wants to use electronic signature (or e-signature) services that follow the digital signature guidelines:

  1. Peace of mind knowing people cannot alter, duplicate, or do anything untoward, with a document that has been sent through an electronic service vendor that utilizes digital signature protocols. Because documents uploaded to an electronic signature service with digital signatures are protected from alteration, users are restricted from altering or copying the text directly and cannot export or change the document contents or import/upload a new version. They may only review and sign (or refuse to sign). This means the security of the document, and veracity of the content, are not in question.
  2. Signatures can be verified with an audit trail. Most electronic signature vendors with digital signature protocols provide certifications and audit trials for documents that are processed through their systems. Certificates can be issued against those signatures and are accepted and defensible in most jurisdictions.
  3. Time and cost needed for closing an agreement is greatly reduced. There is no longer a need to overnight documents back and forth between signatories unless working on documents that need to be notarized or go through the apostille process. You can now close a deal from across the country in about 30 seconds which reduces both hard costs (printing and shipping) and soft costs (scanning and uploading). Automated workflow, as well as knowing the document is retained once signatures are all there, increases the savings.
  4. Security of knowing that document, once it’s fully signed, is secure. Fully executed documents need to be stored electronically within a system like NetDocuments. It provides peace of mind knowing that you’re not going to lose it somewhere and that it remains searchable within the system.
  5. Electronic signatures with digital signature fingerprints are intuitive, convenient, and can be completed almost anywhere in the world, from practically any device. We’re all looking for ways to increase efficiency and productivity. So why create a process that is hard for you or your clients?
  6. As stated previously, digital signature validation is easier to defend in court. Courts are treating electronic signatures with digital certification the same way they have treated wet signatures in the past. When you have a time and date stamp with a signature along with a clear electronic chain of custody, it’s difficult to challenge.

Modern legal transactions demand the convenient and compliant nature of today’s e-signature tools. But with new tools comes new tasks to ensure documents end up in the right place—which can reduce your overall pace.

How to Get the Most Out of Your E-Signature Tool

Lawyers everywhere are burning out and clients are less likely to pay for time spent on administrative tasks. While an e-signature tool may relieve the time burdens associated with the printing, scanning, sending, signing and tracking of traditional signatures, downloading and transferring prepared or signed documents between your systems can still add steps and clicks to an already packed process.

But as my colleague explains, the right legal technology can certainly relieve these extra steps when implemented correctly.

It stands to reason then that the key to a trusted and powerful e-signature tool truly unlocking productivity for your team is its ability to integrate with your document storage system, such as NetDocuments. The ability to have signed and tracked copies of a document automatically stored within your system of record will be vital to your team’s ability to remain focused on critical tasks—not the everyday administrative ones.

Learn about the NetDocuments integration with DocuSign eSignature and how it can help you get the most out of your e-signature solution.

 

South Texas College of Law Houston honors graduates at Alumni Association Annual Luncheon

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 08:55

South Texas College of Law Houston recognized alumni Mary-Olga Lovett, Judge Kyle Carter, and Derek Pershing on September 28 at its 2021 Alumni Association Annual Luncheon at Hotel ZaZa-Houston Museum District.

Lovett received the Distinguished Alumni Award, Carter the Public Service Award, and Pershing was recognized with the Young Alumni Award.

“STCL Houston has a reputation for graduating exceptional lawyers,” said Michael F. Barry, law school president and dean in a press release. “We are proud to select Mo Lovett, Judge Kyle Carter, and Derek Pershing as remarkable graduates who truly embody our mission of service to the community and to the legal profession. Known equally for their notable professional accomplishment and their civic contributions, they set a standard of excellence for our students and for their fellow alumni. I am proud to call them graduates of STCL Houston.”

Lovett is senior vice president of Greenberg Traurig’s Texas offices and serves as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and is a member of STCL Houston’s Board of Directors. The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest award presented by the law school’s alumni association and acknowledges outstanding civic contribution to the community where the recipient lives.

Carter is judge of the 125th District Court in Harris County and has served as general counsel to the state’s legislative committees on General Investigations and Ethics and the committee on Urban Affairs. He is being honored with the Public Service Award for his significant and sustained accomplishments in public service positions.

Pershing is an adjunct professor at STCL Houston and a shareholder in Wilson Cribbs + Goren. He is certified in commercial real estate law, residential real estate law, and farm and ranch real estate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Pershing is being recognized for his significant leadership and service contributions to STCL Houston and the legal profession in the eight years since his graduation from law school.

For more about South Texas College of Law Houston, go to stcl.edu.

July 2021 Texas Bar Exam results listed

Fri, 10/08/2021 - 09:42

Congratulations to everyone who passed the July 2021 bar exam!

The Texas Board of Law Examiners has posted the full past list for the exam. Pass-rate statistics will be available in the coming days.

Scams continue to target Texas attorneys

Thu, 10/07/2021 - 15:04

Update: 10/7/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received a request from an alleged Japanese company who wanted him to draft a contract and close a deal with a company in Dallas. The attorney gave him the retainer amount, and the scammer deposited money into the attorney’s bank account in excess of the retainer. Then the scammer asked him to refund the additional funds. The attorney talked to his bank, and found out that it was a fraudulent transaction that was actually pulled from another bank account with the same bank. The bank is refunding the other bank customer and advised the attorney to stop all communication with the scammer. Now, the scammer is threatening to cause trouble for the attorney by contacting the State Bar and by saying he is not in compliance with IOLTA requirements. The scammer even contacted the attorney’s parents and called his mother by name.

The attorney has filed a report with the police department, and he is also filing a report with the FBI. He contacted the State Bar of Texas Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office and has spoken to the State Bar Membership Dept., who made a note on his record in case something comes up in the future. They also recommended that he update his IOLTA information with the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and that he call them to explain the situation, in case anything comes of it later.

Update: 8/27/2021: We received a report of another scam. Read the scam email the attorney received.

Update 8/26/2021: We received a report of another scam similar to the one we reported on June 18 involving someone posing as Jack Martin Zahn Batiste. Read the full description of the scam as reported by the attorney.

Update 8/10/2021: We received reports of two more scams. One Texas attorney reported a scam where they appear to have been targeted via the contact information from their Find a Lawyer profile on TexasBar.com. The scammer claimed, “I am purchasing a used excavator in your State and the purchase agreement requires your services, I want to know if you can provide closing service for this purchase.” Upon further review of the email exchange, the attorney determined this was a scam.

Another Texas attorney received what turned out to be a variation on the check/wire scam in which the scammer wants the attorney to wire settlement money to them before the check clears. The attorney received an email stating the scammer got fired after he reported being sexually harassed by his superior. He claimed he has a severance agreement with his company, which has failed to pay him, and he wants to sue for breach of contract. The attorney said that the scammer had done a convincing job up to a point, that the grammar used was much better than in many scam emails, and that the documents he sent were much more convincing at a glance. Then the scammer emailed the attorney that he had talked to the company, that he wanted the firm to wait one week, and then wanted the attorney to deduct their fees from whatever amount the company would forward to the firm. The attorney went back and reviewed the PDF severance agreement that the scammer had forwarded and some of his other documents and could see that the URLs used for the employer are not the same as the real company. Also one of the emails has hypertext that shows it going to the CEO of a different company rather than the company the scammer claims to work for, indicating that they have used different variations of the same scheme with other companies.

Update 8/4/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas solo attorney reported an attempted fraud scam. They received a notification from their lead generator through Lawyer.com for a potential personal injury case. The scammer stated that he works offshore out of state, that he had been mauled by a pit bull last year, that he and the “homeowner” had reached a settlement for $225k (with no insurance involved and for which the attorney was provided a release signed by the scammer and the “homeowner”), and that he needed a Texas attorney to finalize everything per their agreement. The attorney was to get the settlement checks and deposit them to their IOLTA (the first installment was $99,500) and then wire transfer the funds less their fee to him. At first the attorney thought everything appeared to be legitimate until they got the check via FedEx.  It was made out to a completely unrelated party. The attorney made the “homeowner” aware, and the scammer quickly got another check to the attorney. The attorney’s gut was telling them something was off, and after doing some digging online, it became clear that there were several small details that were off on the check and the business that the check was drawn on. The attorney then received yet another check for the same amount but issued by a different bank. The attorney went to their bank, and the bank’s fraud department confirmed the checks are not real.

Update 6/18/2021: We received a report of two more scams that involve the same scheme. Two detectives contacted us regarding cases involving a timeshare fraud scheme. The fraudsters have set up bogus websites under two different attorney names, and people have sent them money. The attorney names they are using fraudulently are Jack Martin Zahn Batiste and David Hopkins Brown. The fake websites they are using are https://lawofficeofjackzahn.com/ and https://lawofficeofdavidhbrown.com/. When one detective contacted the number on the Jack Zahn website, the person who answered said the attorney was out of the office, but that they were “operating under his bar number.”  We have informed both attorneys of this scheme being operated in their names, and they have contacted the detectives working the cases.

Update 6/4/2021: We received reports of two more scams. One was similar to the scam we reported on March 30th. A Texas attorney received an email purportedly from an out of country/out of state individual saying that he had obtained the attorney’s name through “the Bar Referral Services” and asked for help with a contact dispute. When the attorney asked for more information on the nature of the dispute, they received an email from “Buvant Construction Group LLC” stating that the dispute was with “Fastenal Company, United States” concerning an unfulfilled order. The attorney looked into “Buvant” and found that this is a known scam.

The other report was from an attorney who was the target of a farm equipment scam. Read the details about the scam from the attorney.

Update 3/30/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received two email scams. One of them was from a “student” who claimed they were referred to the attorney by the “Bar Referral Services.” The other was from someone who claimed they found the attorney on LinkedIn, but the attorney does not currently have a LinkedIn profile. View the scam emails.

Update 2/24/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received an email from someone claiming they hacked the attorney’s computer, installed a virus, had access to the attorney’s computer activity, and threatened to publish it. The scammer demanded bitcoin in order to resolve it. The attorney said to the best of their knowledge their system has not been compromised, and all of the statements made by the sender are untrue. View the scam email.

Update: 2/23/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received an email requesting their assistance in collecting money as the scammer’s client’s next of kin because the attorney has the same last name as the client. View the scam email.

Update: 2/8/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney’s firm was contacted by an architect who claimed he was trying to collect a debt owed to him by a client, and he was seeking their legal representation. After agreeing to send the client a demand, the architect asked the attorney to hold off because the client was interested in paying before suit was filed. The client sent a cashier’s check directly to the firm and payable to the firm for a reduced amount. The architect asked the attorney to deposit the check into their account. He would next have the attorney take their fee out of the amount and send him the rest. The attorney let him know that they don’t accept those, wouldn’t be depositing the check, and asked that his friend wire the money to him directly. The architect wanted the attorney to deposit the check anyway, take out their retainer, and then wire him the rest. The attorney was suspicious and called the “client.” Before the attorney could get their third sentence in, the client stopped them and said it was a scam. The client had been contacted by several lawyers – some of whom caught on, but at least one of whom was scammed. The cashier’s check was of course bad. Therefore, the “architect” was trying to scam money from the attorney and their firm.

Update 12/4/2020: We received a report of another scam. This scam appears to be targeting Texas attorneys practicing employment law. An attorney received a scam email from someone claiming they needed the attorney’s help in receiving severance pay from their employer that they had been promised but never received. There are many indicators in the email and email attachments that the person sending it was not a legitimate potential client. These include the fact that no attorney seems to be involved, the email addresses in the alleged email communications are not correct, the alleged HR person is addressed by both first and last names, the documents contain many spacing and typo errors, the “settlement agreement” is a form that has been filled in, the stationery used is suspect, and the situation described is highly suspicious. Because so many things seemed questionable, the attorney searched for “severance pay scams” online and found that the Florida Bar and the Virginia Bar Association have issued warnings about such scams, and there are numerous articles about similar scams.

Update 9/30/2020: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received a scam email they have seen several times before. In the scam, someone claims that they have a settlement and are looking for an attorney to take over the case. The attorney takes it over and then gets scammed out of money through a bogus wire transfer.

Update 8/19/2020: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received a scam via fax. The fax claims to be from Williams T. Williams, a partner at George & Beaver Law in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The fax says that a client of theirs was a policy holder with a reputable bank, and the client has passed away. It says he is seeking a partnership with the attorney to claim the policy so they can split 90% of the $11, 030,900 between him and the attorney and donate the other 10% to charity. View a copy of the fax for more details.

Update 8/7/2020: We received notice from the Dallas Bar Association of another scam targeting Texas attorneys. They let us know that the following message went out to their members this morning: Please be aware of an email scam promoting a Gofundme account related to a sick child that is targeting some DBA members. This is NOT from the DBA. If you are questioning the validity of the email, check the email address to which you are replying to make sure it is a legitimate address.

Update 8/6/2020: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney was contacted by someone who is trying to run a bogus check scam on them. The scam usually starts with the scammer sending the attorney a bogus check to be deposited into the attorney’s IOLTA account, purportedly to allow the represented funds to be held in escrow pending a transaction. Then a day or so after the check is deposited, the scammer advises the attorney that the deal has been terminated, and the funds are requested to be returned by the attorney to the scammer. The original check does not clear and is dishonored.

The attorney had several email exchanges with the scammer, was sent the bogus check, and was also emailed (from a different email address) bogus purchase/sale and escrow agreement documents in an attempt to make the transaction appear to be legitimate. View copies of the emails and documents.

The attorney has called the credit union upon which the fraudulent cashier’s check has apparently been issued, and the credit union has confirmed that it is counterfeit. The attorney was told to expect a call from the credit union’s fraud department and will be sending them copies of the documents and emails received.

After the attorney looked into all of the information, they found the email address from which this scam is being run is prevalent in other instances and that the scammer has done this many times before.

Update 7/29/2020: We received a report of another scam. A law firm received an email phishing attempt via a contact form on their website from a person who said they were referred to their firm by “the attorney bar association.” They said that they were requesting legal assistance and asked if the firm handled “sales/purchase agreement.” The person called himself “DON Jim Harrison.” He provided his email address and phone number, and his IP address is in Nigeria. The firm filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and per its guidance also emailed a screen shot of the contact form to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at apwg.org.

Update  7/14/2020: We received reports of two more scams.

A Texas attorney was notified that someone was impersonating them. An Arizona resident was contacted by the Foreign Asset Control to inform him he was appointed a law firm to represent him in a matter in Mexico. This law firm included the Texas attorney, though the law firm does not exist. The person using the attorney’s information had the Arizona victim send him/her money as a part of that representation. All information provided to the Arizona victim was available online, including the attorney’s LinkedIn page photo and bar number.

A Texas attorney reported a scam involving a supposed loose acquaintance of the attorney who lives in Ireland. The attorney has not personally met the person. The acquaintance said he had a referral of his “boss” for a claim for breach of a license contract. The “boss,” a supposed Taiwan company, sent a “contract” and said that the licensee owed past due monies. The attorney sent an engagement letter to the Taiwan company and received a signature of the purported owner/president of the company, but a retainer was not requested. After the engagement letter was received, the Taiwan company notified the attorney that they had told the licensee company that the attorney’s firm was prepping to file suit to claim the amount owed, and the licensee company purported it would pay back the due amount. Within a few days, the attorney received at their law firm a “check” from the licensee company. The check was a large amount, so the attorney contacted the supposed licensee company and questioned whether they had issued the check. The actual company said that it had not issued any check. The Taiwan company has since contacted the attorney’s law firm asking whether the check was received. The Taiwan company said to take legal fees/expenses from the amount and pay the remainder over to the Taiwan company.

Update 7/8/2020: We received an update from the Texas attorney who was being impersonated by someone out of Staten Island, NY. They received another call from their managing partner that it happened again, this time out of Las Vegas, NV. Someone hacked their State Bar page and is misrepresenting them as their attorney. The Texas attorney has never been licensed in Nevada.

Update 6/18/2020:

We received reports of three more scams.

A Texas attorney was recently defrauded out of $15,000 by a supposed client asking for help negotiating and closing the sale of medical ventilators to a hospital in New Mexico. The attorney practices in New Mexico but lives in El Paso and deposited the phony cashier’s check there. The attorney filed a complaint with the FBI. Read the scam details from the attorney.

A Texas attorney received a call at their office that someone was impersonating them out of Staten Island, New York, and the person said they had retained the impersonator to represent them on a New York probate matter. They said the person who referred the attorney to them had represented the referrer’s father’s estate in New York. The attorney is not licensed in New York, and this person has never been a client of theirs. The attorney filed a report with the police department.

A Texas attorney received an email from a person requesting to retain their services for a dog bite claim and also included pictures. The person said the bite occurred when they were in Texas but that they live in Japan. They said the supposed dog owner had agreed to pay a settlement out of court but that they failed to do so. The attorney was never able to reach the supposed client by phone. The attorney then received an email from the supposed dog owner saying they wanted to settle the case out of court and attached a copy of the signed settlement agreement between the two parties. After further investigation into the correspondence, the attorney found that it was a scam.

Update 6/3/2020: We received a report of more scams. A Texas law firm received several emails requesting their services. The scammers used different names but followed similar patterns. They purported to be on behalf of presidents and directors of different companies, two based in Asia and one in New Jersey. The firm tried to verify their identities but was unable to. View copies of the scam emails.

Update 5/29/2020: A Texas attorney reported two more scams. A firm received an email requesting their services and accepted the request. They received a $300,000.00 check, which they deposited, and then sent most of that money via wire transfer to Asia. The check bounced, and the firm notified their bank. They were not able to recover their money. Another scam was sent via text message. An attorney received a text appearing to be an urgent message from their bank. The text said to call the bank immediately and that an unknown subject opened an account with their information and misappropriated money. The attorney called the number given, which appears to be real, and reached an automated message. The message asked them to verify their bank account information, which included their checking account number, credit card numbers, card security code, and last four digits of their social security number. They verified all of the information via the automated message. The attorney’s bank account was reduced to almost zero, their credit cards were maxed out, and a new credit card had been requested to be sent to a different address. These scams also targeted attorneys in Massachusetts.

Update 2/20/20: Attorneys continue to receive the Compass Upstream Services scam emails.  A Maryland attorney received one from Harry Jones, and a Michigan attorney received one from Jacob Taylor. The email language is identical, with different names used for the vice president, customer, and bank on the check.

2/13/2020:

Update 2 –

A Tennessee attorney and another California attorney were targets of the Compass Upstream Services scam.

The Tennessee attorney reported that they were contacted by vice president Harry Jones. They were suspect of the initial email but did attempt to send correspondence in the mail, which was returned. They attempted a phone call, but no one answered, and the ring and voicemail was “off.”

The California attorney provided further details about the scam they received.

The client phone calls tended to last 3-5 minutes in length, and they were very quick to jump off the phone with little detail being discussed.

After the attorney received a $200,000.00 cashier’s check which was meant to be a deposit for travel and inspection fees for an engineer the leasing broker was to hire, the client contacted the attorney approving of some of the deal points and instructing them to deposit the check. The client also stated that the payment to the engineering company doing the inspection, hired by the broker, would need to be expedited to the next day given how quickly the project was progressing. The attorney explained the limitations of this arrangement to the client and also followed up on a number of factual issues they had discovered and asked for an explanation. No response was forthcoming.

None of the companies involved appear to have any online footprint or exist on their state’s secretary of state websites. The attorney also contacted the supposed leasing company, Pacific Coast Energy Company. They had no idea who the client was, who their supposed broker was, or that any lease was anticipated.

The client insists on payment being deposited and a check cut the next day which the attorney anticipates will be before the funds have cleared or been deposited in the account, although the attorney did not deposit the check to find out. They would venture a guess that the check is not good and that the payment would have been issued well before this fact was discovered, leaving the attorney holding the bag with a trust account now light on funds.

Update 1 –

We received a report from a Dallas attorney who was contacted by a person claiming to represent a debt collection company in Florida. The person requested the attorney’s assistance in recovering a debt from a company based in Texas. The email asked the attorney to send a demand letter for the debt collection to the company. After the demand letter, the person called the attorney stating the company had just sent them a portion of the debt. The person told the attorney they would mail them the debt payment check to cash and for the attorney to take his portion of the fees. The caller asked the attorney to then wire back the remainder of the money. A fellow attorney who had received the email said it claimed to have been from the Dallas Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service but it was not sent in the regular way for a referral.

Update: 2/11/20: We received three more reports from out of state attorneys who received the Compass Upstream Services, LLC scam emails. A New Jersey attorney received an email from Harry Jones. View the email chains and documents, which include an email from the supposed broker and a letter of intent, to a California attorney from Ryan Johnson and to a Utah attorney from Danny Gibson.

Update 2/7/20: We received reports from four more attorneys who received scam emails from Compass Upstream Services, LLC. The attorneys targeted are in California, Maryland, Michigan, and Virginia/Washington D.C. The emails came from vice presidents of the company using the names Harry Cooper, Harry Jones, Ryan Johnson, and Scott Carter. View one of the email chains.

Update 2/5/20: We received reports from two more attorneys who received the same scam as the one we reported on January 27, with slight variations in the emails they received. The emails were also from Compass Upstream Services, LLC out of Austin, TX, soliciting help in drafting an equipment lease agreement but were were from a vice president Ryan Johnson. One attorney called the telephone number from the email and website, and no one answered. The call went to an automated voicemail that had a strange sounding ring. There were two different email addresses, a comcast.com email address and a compassupstreamservices.com email address, used for Ryan Johnson in the emails that another attorney received.

Update 1/27/20: We received a report of another scam. An attorney received an email from a person named James Marshall, who claimed to be with a company called Compass Upstream Services LLC, based out of Texas. In his email, the scammer stated that his company was going to lease drilling equipment to another Texas company, at the rate of $65,000 per day, and he wanted to know if the attorney could write the lease agreement. In the scammer’s email, he said he needed an attorney in “your state,” which the attorney assumes means Texas.

The attorney was suspicious of the email and found no record of the scammer’s LLC being registered in Texas. The attorney checked the ICANN database for the scammer’s domain name. As of Saturday, the scammer’s domain name and website did not exist, but they do exist as of today. The attorney inspected the scammer’s website, www.compassupstreamservices.com, and found that it looks like an exact copy of the website of another oil company, www.marriottdrilling.com.

Update 11/14/2019: We received a report of another scam. An attorney received an email from a Japanese company named Kuraray Co. Ltd, which appears to be a real company. The email used a fake email address, and stated that the Japanese company had a claim against a Grand Prairie company for unpaid invoices and wanted to hire the attorney. The attorney ignored the email but eventually received a fake settlement check that appeared to come from the Grand Prairie company, but the check was mailed from Canada. The attorney was invited to deposit the check and take out the attorney’s fee, even though the attorney never negotiated or requested the fee. The attorney took the check to their bank, and the bank spotted several problems with the check and confirmed it was fake, as did the real Grand Prairie company. UPDATE 7/23/2020: According to information received on 7/23/2020, Kuraray Co., Ltd., is a legitimate business with no control over or connection with online scamming.  

Update 9/18/2019: We received a report of another scam. An attorney received an email from a scammer using the name of a law firm from Texas but with an email using a domain address from Australia: bully34351@tpg.com.au. The email states that the attorney is being sued by the scammer’s client, must download a link to find out the details of the “immense psychological suffering” the attorney caused with their words, and that the scammer and the client will see the attorney in court.

Update 9/3/2019: A Texas attorney today reported that someone falsely claiming to represent the State Bar of Texas called her to request payment of bar fees. The call came from the number 888-270-4815, which is not associated with the State Bar. Fortunately, the attorney realized she was being targeted by a scam and reported it to the bar. Legitimate messages regarding State Bar of Texas fees will come via mail or email from the State Bar Membership Department. Attorneys can contact the Membership Department at 800-204-2222 (ext. 1383) or memmail@texasbar.com to verify whether a communication is from the State Bar.

Update 6/27/2019: We received reports of two more scams. An attorney reported two scams he has received via email. In the first one and the one he receives most often, he receives an email from “Alexis Berger.” The email generally contains the following information: “I am seriously in need of your legal assistance. i lent my brother-in-law some money and has refused to pay back i checked your profile and find your firm capable of assisting me in my legal issue. Here is my email address alexisberger231@gmail.com. Mr Alexis Berger.”  The email address usually varies by the numbers at the end of the scammer’s name and is always at gmail.com. This scam has also been reported by numerous attorneys in the United States and Canada. The second email the attorney received is an email from “Shin Okura” with Tokai Electronics, a Japanese company, apparently looking to bring a claim against a local Houston company for unpaid invoices. Invoices and documents were also provided which looked very suspicious and altered. This scam has also been reported by law firms in Canada.

Update 6/24/2019: We received a report of another scam. An attorney was contacted by a scammer who requested to retain the attorney’s representation for a dog bite case. The scammer claimed they were bit by a dog, that the dog’s owner had agreed to pay a settlement for medical expenses, and that the dog owner had not yet paid. The attorney was also contacted by the person claiming to be the dog owner, who was part of the scam. The dog owner claimed to want to pay the settlement to the scammer through the attorney and out of court. The scammer also used photos from a news story in the UK that they claimed showed the dog bite. This same scam has been reported in other states, with the scammer using different cities where the dog bite incident occurred.

Update 5/31/2019: We received a report of another scam. An attorney was recently made aware that an unknown individual going by the name Simon Grant has stolen the attorney’s name, bar number, and publicly available contact information. The scammer contacts victims by email and is using the attorney’s information to defraud individuals by claiming to be the attorney or be employed by the attorney. The scammer also created a false website which has since been taken down.

Update 3/13/19: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received an email inquiry for a new case through the attorney’s firm website. The scammer requested to retain the firm for help in getting repayment for a loan. A copy of the supposed loan agreement was sent to the firm. The address used for the loan borrower is local to the firm’s location. The address the scammer listed as their own is located in Hong Kong. The scammer used the name Mr. Zhang Chang. A similar scam by someone with that name was previously reported by two Ontario law firms.

Update 1/30/2018: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney recently received an email that is part of an ongoing scam directed to attorneys in which the scammer is attempting to get the attorney to wire real funds after receiving fraudulent payments (bad checks or fake credit cards). The text of the email is as follows:

Hello,

I am in need of your legal assistance regarding a breach of loan agreement I provided a friend of mine in the amount of $750,000. He needed this loan to complete an ongoing project he was handling last year. He now resides in your jurisdiction and the loan was for 24 months with interest accrued at the rate of 7.5%. The capital and interest were supposed to be paid May last year but he has only paid $50,000 which was in October.

Please let me know if this falls within the scope of your practice, so that I can provide you with the loan documents and any further information you need to know.

Thanks,

Scott Steinberg.

Update 1/25/2018: We received a report of another scam. A Texas law firm received an inquiry through their website asking if they could draw up a contract for the sale of used construction heavy equipment. The firm responded asking for more details, and the “seller” in Florida sent a detailed appraisal and photograph of the equipment, complete with serial number and a signed letter of intent from a buyer in Texas. The “seller”, “buyer,” and “broker” information all checked out online in Florida, and the “buyer” information also checked out on the Texas Secretary of State website. All were legitimate businesses involved in that type of transaction.

The “seller” signed the engagement letter and sent a paper check from New York that looked legitimate and appeared to be issued by the “buyer.” The firm deposited the check into their trust account. Later that week, the “seller” asked them to wire part of the funds for an inspection of the equipment. Because the check hadn’t cleared the firm’s bank and the wire was to a location in Asia, the firm didn’t send the money, and they inspected further.

The firm called the “seller” who answered using the name of the legitimate Florida businessman. He provided a number during that call that went to a recorded voicemail matching the “broker” details. They called a phone number from the broker’s website, and the real broker answered and said they were the second firm that week to call him (the other was from Delaware), that a scammer had ripped off his letterhead and information, and that he was not involved in any transaction like they described. The firm also contacted the “buyer” using an independent number they found, and the local person who answered said that he ran a legitimate business but was not buying any equipment and knew nothing of the transaction.

The firm contacted their bank, and the bank president contacted the issuing check bank. The issuing check bank was a real bank, but the check and account number with that bank were phony.

Update 11/15/2017: We have received a report of another scam. A person in Australia was contacted by a scammer using a Texas attorney’s information. The person who was contacted was scammed previously and lost money, and he believes it is the same scammers who are contacting him again. In the emails, the scammers say they can recover the person’s money for him from a company, Norton Pearce Associates, that has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Update 9/13/17: We have received a report of another scam. A person in New York received a phone call from someone claiming to be her grandson, who lives in Texas. She was told that he was in jail and needed bail money. They told her to call (877) 386-6064 for the Bradford Law Firm and ask for attorney Allen Roberts. The phone number has been disconnected, and the Texas attorney Allen Roberts is deceased.

Update 7/13/17: We received a report from an attorney who was contacted through their firm Facebook page and by e-mail by someone who claims that the attorney represents them in a lawsuit in Kenya. The person is not a client of the firm, and they have no record of any previous communication with the person.

Update 6/26/17: We received a report of another scam targeting Texas attorneys. An attorney received a scam email seeking representation to draft a purchase and sales agreement for a boat sale. The scammer sent the email using another attorney’s name in the email address. View the scam email attachment.

Update 5/26/17: We received a report of another scam targeting Texas attorneys.

A lawyer received a call from someone purporting to be from the State Bar of Texas. The caller, who identified the date the lawyer was admitted to practice law in Texas, offered the attorney a half-year free membership and listed associated benefits. After the attorney refused and ended the conversation, the caller attempted to contact another lawyer in his office but was stopped by the receptionist.

The State Bar of Texas Membership Department does not call attorneys with special offers for membership dues.

Update 5/4/17: We received reports of two more scams targeting Texas attorneys.

A law firm received emails from a person asking to hire the firm to collect payment for goods provided to a third party. The firm also received an email from the third party. Both emails were fake. The firm also received a check as a retainer, and upon verification with the Canadian bank listed on the check, confirmed it was fake. View the scam emails and fraudulent check.

Another law firm received several scam emails within a few days of each other from different senders from locations in Europe, the Netherlands, Africa, and the United States. The emails were requests for various legal services including help with a real estate loan default, seeking assistance with an investment, and drafting a purchase and sales agreement for a drilling rig. The firm also received a fake out of office reply email from a sender they did not contact.

Update 4/17/17: We received a report of another scam in which a law firm’s accounting department received an email purporting to be from the president of the firm, instructing them to pay a statement for $19,500 for professional service. When accounting requested more information, the president responded that the email was not from him. The address it appeared to come from was exeuva@comcast.net.

Update 4/11/2017: We received reports of two more scams targeting Texas attorneys.

An attorney received a phishing email. He tried to open an email which appeared to be from a referring attorney sending documents via DocuSign. Over 20 people on his contact list also received the email. The hackers sent out thousands of fake emails to his contacts which appeared to be coming from him. The hackers also responded to inquiries from his contacts questioning if the phishing email was legitimate.

Another attorney received a fraudulent check. He received a $400,000 check that cleared his bank and was told it was part of a $1,000,000 deal. He also received a second payment. He received instructions to deduct his fee and wire the remaining funds to Kenya. He called his bank to verify the check. The check had a name and address on it that appeared to belong to an oil company but was that of a U.S. insurance company.

Update 3/9/2017: We have received a report of a phishing scam targeting Texas attorneys. The scammer stated they were seeking legal counsel. View a copy of the scam email.

Update: 2/23/17: We have received reports of another scam email targeting Texas attorneys. Some attorneys have received emails that appear to be coming from another attorney. It appears that the scammer was able to access attorneys’ email address books for the purpose of forwarding the e-mail from one attorney to another giving the appearance that it is a referral. It is apparently a scam enlisting attorneys to prepare legal documents upon receiving a cashier’s check deposited in trust accounts with an overpayment of legal fees being returned to the scammer from the attorney’s trust account. The initial payment is fraudulent.

Law firms in Canada and the UK have received similar e-mails.

The scam emails are coming from the following accounts with the name Tijmen Smit: systemspecified@yahoo.com and jamescrosbyhalifax@yahoo.co.uk.

Update: 9/23/16: A San Antonio lawyer has notified the State Bar of Texas that he received a fraudulent check as part of an attempted scam. View the fraudulent check and scam letter.

Update 2/26/16: We received a report about another fraudulent check scam targeting attorneys.

Update 2/3/16: We received a report of a new scam targeting clients of attorneys. Scammers are “spoofing” phone numbers of attorneys and calling clients to get money. Read the full story.

Update 10/23/15: The State Bar of Texas has been alerted to a potential email scam involving a debt collection. On October 20, a Fort Sam Houston attorney received an email from a sender who claimed that she had lent a sum of money to a borrower, and that the borrower had not yet repaid the loan in full and had since moved to Texas. The sender claimed she was seeking legal assistance in the matter and requested information about the attorney’s fees. The message also included a copy of two checks (here and here) and an alleged loan agreement promissory note.

Update 10/8/15: We received a recent report of a scam targeting attorneys. An attorney was contacted by a company and received a bogus check. Read the details on this fraudulent check scam.

Update 2/26/15. We have received a report of a scam from an attorney who received a request for assistance. She spoke on the phone to the proposed client, who asked that a buyer send the firm a 15 percent deposit from a purchase price to use as a retainer, that the firm bill their fees against it, and return the remainder to the client. Upon further searching, the attorney uncovered a scam.

Update 6/4/14. We received a report this week about a sophisticated scam involving collection with a fraudulent certified check that has affected at least three Texas attorneys. Read the details here. 

10/18/13. We received a report today that the name of a San Antonio law firm is being used in a debt collection scam, where scammers apparently obtained files from a payday loan company. The scammers are calling people all over the country, saying they are with the law firm, and threatening the people with arrest if they do not immediately pay their debts. Law enforcement and the Secret Service in San Antonio are investigating the matter.

9/17/13

Texas attorneys should be extra-vigilant regarding potential scams involving fraudulent checks or wire transfers. These scams are increasing in sophistication, sometimes involving innocent third parties who seek legal services at the request of a scam artist.

The bottom line is this: Never issue a check from a trust account until deposited funds have been collected.

Scam scenarios include:

  • a request for help in collecting a divorce settlement from an ex-spouse
  • unsolicited email requests for legal help collecting money or judgments, sometimes apparently coming from actual professionals whose identities have been stolen
  • a real estate transaction for an overseas client (whose identity was stolen by a scam artist) involving an innocent third-party realtor
  • impersonation of law firms by scam artists who issue bogus checks and attempt to charge a fee for the checks to clear
  • a bogus check received by a law firm, purportedly for payment regarding representation of an inmate
  • impersonation of a lawyer and law firm by a scammer “collecting debts” under the attorney’s name

Again, be vigilant and do not disburse funds from your accounts until underlying funds have cleared your bank (and not simply been made “available”).

Cases involving bank fraud are investigated by the Secret Service. If you are targeted, contact an office in your area. Internet fraud should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

If a scam has targeted you or your firm, please leave a comment below describing the scenario or tactics the scammer used.

Texas Supreme Court debuts new email subscription, rolling caselaw updates

Wed, 10/06/2021 - 08:45

By Dylan Drummond

For the past several decades, the Texas Supreme Court’s longtime public information staff attorney—Osler McCarthy—lovingly, laboriously, and manually emailed the court’s Friday orders to anyone who had asked to be added to an email distribution list he maintained.

With Osler’s retirement last month, the court has now semi-automated this email notification system, beginning with this past Friday’s order list delivered on October 1. Anyone who had previously signed up on Osler’s email list has been migrated over to the new system. In addition, anyone not included on the prior distribution list may sign up for the new subscription service via this link on the court’s website. The new service will disseminate the court’s weekly orders to those subscribed each Friday.

The weekly orders email includes links not only to that week’s order list but also to summaries of any opinions included in the orders as well. The court’s Twitter account also posts links to the weekly orders list and any case-specific special orders that may be rendered. The court’s weekly orders email will come from the court’s clerk, Blake Hawthorne, and will appear in substantially similar form to this:

Rolling Substantive Caselaw Update

Beginning this month, the court has also graciously posted a substantive caselaw update going back over the past year, accessible on the Practice Before the Court page (preview shown below). When you arrive at the webpage, navigate to the “Supreme Court Home” box on the left side of the screen, and click on “Supreme Court of Texas Update Paper.

The current iteration summarizes opinions released from August 2020 through September 2021, but the court will post updated versions of the paper periodically going forward at the same link.

Dylan Drummond is the 2021-2022 chair of the State Bar of Texas Appellate Section. 

State Bar board approves candidates, responds to federal court decision

Fri, 10/01/2021 - 10:26

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors held its quarterly meeting September 24 in San Antonio. Highlights of the meeting appear below. You can watch video of the meeting at and read the agenda and meeting materials at .

2022 Election Update

The board approved Joe Escobedo Jr., of Edinburg, and Cindy V. Tisdale, of Granbury, as candidates for 2022-2023 State Bar president-elect. Escobedo and Tisdale will appear on the ballot in April 2022 along with any certified petition candidates. Presently there are no additional president-elect candidates, although members have until March 1 to submit nominating petitions to the State Bar for certification. For information on how to run for president-elect, . Click the names below to read the candidates’ interest letters and resumes as submitted to the board’s Nominations and Elections Subcommittee.

The board also approved policy changes to allow electronic signatures on candidate petition forms, to define candidates’ principal place of practice for nomination and election purposes, and to require candidates to establish their principal places of practice no later than December 31. The bar previously allowed electronic signatures on petition forms as a pandemic-related safety measure but now will allow them in all future bar elections.

Federal Lawsuit Response

The board approved changes to State Bar rules and policies to comply with the recent U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel opinion in McDonald v. Longley. The changes include updates to the bar’s budgeting, legislative, and expenditure objection processes. to view the changes, and for a case timeline and a summary of similar litigation against other mandatory bars. On September 30, the State Bar of Texas filed a summary of the rule and policy changes approved by the board with the district court as part of the case’s remedies phase. Go to read all filings in the case.

Resolutions

Directors approved forwarding a resolution regarding trial safety measures from the Presidential Task Force on Criminal Court Proceedings to the Office of Court Administration for consideration. The board postponed, until its January meeting, a resolution by director Steve Fischer supporting a post-pandemic remote hearings policy after some directors said they wanted to refine the resolution language.

TYLA Eligibility

At the request of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the board approved changes to TYLA’s membership structure and approved a request that the Texas Supreme Court amend bar rules to reflect the changes. Under the new structure, if approved by the court, all Texas-licensed attorneys in their first 12 years of practice, regardless of age, would be TYLA members. Currently, Texas lawyers are TYLA members if they are 36 years old or younger or in their first five years of practice, regardless of age. The resolution states the revisions to TYLA’s membership definition are needed “to better ensure that all new attorneys are included, specifically, those practicing law as a second career.” The changes are expected to increase TYLA’s membership from approximately from 25,000 to 32,000 members. TYLA does not charge membership fees.

New Task Force and Special Committee

The board approved the creation of the Task Force on Redistricting to review apportionment of bar districts as required by the State Bar Act. The board also voted to create a Building Planning Special Committee to work with State Bar staff regarding decisions on remodeling, repairs, and uses of the property at 1415 Lavaca in Austin, which the bar recently purchased.

Proposed New Disciplinary Rules

The Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda has recommended proposed Rule 1.18 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, pertaining to duties to prospective clients, and proposed Rule 13.05 of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, pertaining to the termination of a custodianship for the cessation of practice. The board voted to approve the changes and to hold them for submission to the Supreme Court at a later date with other proposed rules as deemed appropriate by the board. Ultimately, the board will petition the Supreme Court to order a referendum on the proposed rules.

Recognitions

President Sylvia Borunda Firth and the board honored three individuals for exceptional service to the legal profession. Receiving board resolutions were James L. Branton (in memoriam), Jane H. Macon, and David Slayton. Executive Director Trey Apffel honored Royce LeMoine, deputy counsel for administration in the Austin office of the chief disciplinary counsel, with the quarterly Staff Excellence Award.

Looking ahead

The next board meeting is scheduled for January 28 in McAllen. If you have comments for the board, please email them to . to find your district directors.

State Bar board approves candidates for 2022-2023 president-elect

Fri, 09/24/2021 - 15:40

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors voted September 24 to approve Joe Escobedo Jr. of Edinburg and Cindy V. Tisdale of Granbury as candidates for 2022-2023 president-elect.

Escobedo and Tisdale will appear on the ballot in April 2022 along with any certified petition candidates. Presently there are no additional president-elect candidates, although members have until March 1 to submit their nominating petitions to the State Bar for certification.

Escobedo

Escobedo, a partner in Escobedo & Cardenas LLP, represents clients in complex commercial and tort-based litigation. He is certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He earned his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1989.

Escobedo served as 2016-2017 chair of the State Bar Board of Directors. He serves on the Texas Bar Foundation board and is a commissioner on the Texas Access to Justice Commission. He is chair of 2021-2022 State Bar President Sylvia Borunda Firth’s Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and has previously served on the steering committee for the Texas Minority Counsel Program.

Escobedo is a certified mediator by the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He is fluent in Spanish.

Tisdale

Tisdale, with the Law Office of Cindy V. Tisdale PLLC in Granbury and of counsel with Lynch, Chappell & Alsup in Midland, is certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She earned her J.D. from Baylor University in 1995.

Tisdale served as 2013-2014 chair of the State Bar Board of Directors. She also served as chair of the Texas Bar Foundation, 2017-2018, and chair of the Bar’s Family Law Section, 2017-2018.

She is a fellow in the American Academy of Family Law Specialists, a fellow in the International Academy of Family Law Specialists, a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and a member of Texas Bar College.

Escobedo and Tisdale were recommended to the board by the Nominations and Elections Subcommittee, which interviewed six potential nominees from nonmetropolitan counties in the state, according to State Bar election rules.

Sponsored Content: Document Management Vs. Records Management: What’s The Difference And Why Does It Matter?

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 23:01

Document and Records Management systems share many similarities. In fact, in this digital age, the features and functionality required to manage electronic documents provide a solid foundation for records management. There are however nuances to managing documents and records, so it is important to understand how these disciplines differ and where they overlap.

What is Document Management?

Document management is the practice of providing structure to unstructured data using various tools and strategies. It’s important to remember that a document is a form of information that is generally considered to be ‘unstructured’, as opposed to the structured rows and columns of a database.

In practical terms a document management system (DMS) is a key tool in providing structure to that unstructured data and help you create, edit, store, find, share and generally manage your documents, which might be word processing documents, presentations, spreadsheets, pictures, PDF files etc.

But what does this functionality really accomplish?

The Purpose of Document Management

At a high level, the primary goal of document management is to organize your information and make it possible for people to find what they need, when they need it.

A strong document management strategy (and document management system, or DMS) supports that goal by helping to:

  • Maintain version control
  • Improve document search
  • Digitize physical documents
  • Avoid lost or misfiled documents
  • Keep documents and folders organized

Of course, for law firms and legal teams, security and compliance are also high priorities. Malicious behavior and even simple human error can derail a document management strategy and expose your organization to risk. That’s why it’s so important to have processes and tools in place controlling user access to documents, including ethical walls, to establish your DMS as the single source of truth for your organization.

How a Document Management System (DMS) Helps

A DMS uses a suite of tools for securely storing, organizing, modifying, and sharing documents — but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A DMS also simplifies and streamlines processes, helps your team members maintain document organization and enables them to efficiently carry out their tasks however complex your workflows are.

In addition, another incredibly valuable aspect of a DMS is enhanced document security. Because confidentiality and compliance are so vital to legal work, no organization can afford to overlook document security when choosing a DMS.

What is Records Management?

What is a record, and why do we need to treat them differently?

The ISO defined a record as: “information created, received, and maintained as evidence and as an asset by an organization or person, in pursuit of legal obligations or in the transaction of business”.

So not all your documents may be classified as records, and vice versa. A record is an item that provides evidence of a business transaction, or the pursuit of a legal obligation and can be modified and added to depending on the legal jurisdictions within which you operate, and any specific regulations that pertain to your industry.

The Purposes of Records Management

Ultimately, the purpose of keeping these records is to comply with laws and other regulations and protect your organization from risk. For example, if your firm or company were audited, it may face significant fines or other penalties if records are not properly managed. The best defense is to have a records management strategy that includes well-documented records management policies.

Going beyond good document management practices, records management may require additional elements including developing clear policy and procedures for retention (keeping records for a set period) and disposition (final destruction of the record).

How Does Records Management Software Help?

Records management (RM) software enables you to efficiently capture, identify, store, and dispose of business records according to necessary policies, procedures, and regulations.

When a firm or corporation deals with a large volume of records, it’s often helpful to have a dedicated system that can support records management activities — from securing restricted files to maintaining a records inventory to managing disposition requests.

Why We Need Different Tools

A DMS can provide much of the functionality required to implement your records management strategy for electronic records and can be configured and organized so that workspaces or folders reflect the records management file plan. File plan references and retention schedule labels can be stored as metadata for each document within the DMS. It can also provide retention and disposition functionality, although it is not usually as sophisticated or as flexible as that found in a specialist records management system. This DMS functionality can be particularly helpful if your records strategy includes a requirement to “manage in place” – that is you do not wish to copy or move (often referred to as archiving) your documents to a separate system.

However, when you start to increase the complexity of your file plan or retention schedule, or need to also manage physical records, then you really need a specialist RM system. Such a system will provide additional functionality above and beyond that of the DMS.

To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of different legal software types, plus how they overlap and complement each other, check out our Legal Technology Cheat Sheet.

How NetDocuments Can Help

As the leading cloud-based document management system, the NetDocuments platform is designed to help legal professionals maximize productivity with a suite of robust tools that allow you to create, edit, store, locate, and collaborate on documents — anywhere, on any device, with award-winning security capabilities.

NetDocuments provides features to apply to your records management policies to documents within our system and integrates with numerous leading records management providers which ensures that your processes stay streamlined and secure without sacrificing on features or expertise. And while not a records management system, NetDocuments does support document and records management best practices by allowing users to define document retention and archiving policies in the platform.

By pairing your records management system with a powerful, secure, and flexible DMS like NetDocuments, you can ensure that your team has the best tools to do their best work.

 

State Bar of Texas Board of Directors to meet September 24

Thu, 09/16/2021 - 17:33

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors will meet at 9 a.m. on September 24 at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio.

Attorneys and members of the public can watch the meeting live on the State Bar’s YouTube channel.

Public comment will be accepted in person at the meeting and virtually via Zoom. To sign up to speak during the meeting, please email amy.starnes@texasbar.com or call (800) 204-2222, ext. 1706 (toll free) before 5 p.m. CDT on September 23. Written comments regarding agenda items may be sent to boardofdirectors@texasbar.com and must be received before 5 p.m. CDT on September 22 for timely distribution to the directors.

Among items on the agenda are:
8. B. 1. Action: Consider and discuss approval of forwarding a resolution regarding trial safety measures from the Task Force on Criminal Court Proceedings, to the Office of Court Administration for consideration.

8. C. Action: Consider and discuss approval of the creation of a Redistricting Task Force, including approval of its roster.

8. D. Action: Consider and discuss approval of the creation of a Building Planning Special Committee, including approval of its roster, and grant authority to the committee to work with State Bar staff regarding decisions on remodeling, repairs, and uses of the 1415 Lavaca Building.

12. A. 2. Action: Consider and discuss approval of candidates for 2022-23 SBOT President-elect: Jose “Joe” Escobedo Jr. and Cindy V. Tisdale.

12. A. 4. Action: Consider and discuss approval of proposed amendments to Board Policy Manual pertaining to electronic signatures.

13. A. 2. Action: Consider and discuss approval of proposed Rule 1.18 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, pertaining to duties to prospective clients.

13. A. 3. Action: Consider and discuss approval of proposed Rule 13.05 of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, pertaining to the termination of a custodianship for the cessation of practice.

20. Action: Consider and discuss approval of resolution regarding remote participation in court hearings.

View the complete agenda here.

Erica Grigg named director of Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program

Thu, 09/16/2021 - 09:13

Erica Grigg

Erica Grigg credits the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program with saving her life. This month, she became director of the 37-year-old program.

The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP) provides confidential help, referrals, and peer assistance programs to lawyers, judges, and law students experiencing mental health or substance use disorders.

“Years ago, I reached out to TLAP for help while in the throes of alcohol addiction and untreated, severe depression. This program and its resources saved my life and career,” Grigg said. “It is the honor of a lifetime to now have the opportunity to give back to TLAP and the profession I love.”

Grigg became a Texas lawyer in 2001 after graduating with her J.D. from the University of Texas Law School. She is pursuing her master’s degree in clinical mental health from Lamar University and will complete it in summer 2022.

Before joining the TLAP staff as lead professional in 2018, Grigg served as a volunteer for the program for nine years. Grigg was a litigation attorney at Spivey & Grigg LLP in Austin from 2014 to 2018 focusing on civil rights and personal injury law.

She is a member of the American Counselors Association, the American Mental Health Counselors Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, and the Capitol Area Trial Lawyers Association. Grigg earned State Bar of Texas Presidential Citations in 2019 and 2016.

Grigg succeeds Chris Ritter, who had been director of TLAP since 2018. Ritter has joined the State Bar of Texas office of legal counsel.

TLAP can be reached 24 hours a day by calling or texting 800-343-TLAP (8527). Additional resources are available at tlaphelps.org.

Free legal assistance available for low-income individuals affected by Hurricane Nicholas

Thu, 09/16/2021 - 08:49

Free legal resources are available to low-income individuals affected by flooding and other conditions created by Hurricane Nicholas.

The State Bar of Texas’s toll-free disaster legal services hotline—800-504-7030—puts callers in touch with legal aid providers in their areas who can help with:

  • Replacement of important legal documents lost or destroyed in the disaster;
  • Life, medical, and property insurance claims;
  • Home repair contracts and contractors;
  • Consumer protection issues such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the recovery process;
  • Counseling on landlord-tenant problems; and other matters.

The hotline assists callers in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with lawyers who can provide free, limited legal help.

Read more here.

Sample Billing Language for Attorneys to Reduce Payment Delays

Tue, 09/14/2021 - 23:01

Clearly defining all expectations and responsibilities related to fees, billing, and payments during client intake can go a long way toward preventing chargebacks and payment disputes down the road.

In this article, we’ll share a few examples of sample billing language for attorneys that can help reduce late and non-payments and make sure you get paid for your hard work.

Sample Billing Language for Attorneys: 3 Essential Examples

To be confident that you and your new clients are on the same page from the initial conversation, there are a few topics you should consider covering either in your attorney fee agreement or elsewhere in your client intake paperwork.

Attorney’s Billing Obligations

Let your clients know when they can expect invoices from your firm and what information will be included on those invoices.

Example:

Attorney will provide Client, at monthly intervals, an itemized statement setting forth in reasonable detail all services by Attorney on behalf of Client and any costs that have been incurred and/or advanced by Attorney on behalf of Client in the above-referenced matter. The invoice will also show the application of prepaid fees to the monthly invoice and any resulting balances of prepaid fees and/or unpaid fees.

Client’s Payment Obligations

Outline the expectations regarding when the client is required to submit payment as well as the forms of payment your firm accepts.

Example:

Your legal fees are due and payable [ex: upon receipt of the billing] to be paid no later than [ex: the last day of the month] and may be satisfied with any of the following payment options:

  1. a) By the application of funds held in the firm’s trust account for prepayment of fees, which the firm shall be entitled to transfer upon invoicing
  2. b) By paying by paper check or ACH/eCheck (automated deduction from Client’s designated checking account)
  3. c) By the use of a credit card in person or online via the firm’s payment portal, provided that Client understands that by clicking “Submit Payment” the Client agrees to pay the entire payment amount for the bill selected and authorizes the firm to charge Client’s designated payment method for the payment amount.
  4. d) By paying in cash at the offices of the firm, at which time a written receipt will be generated for you

For Client’s convenience, Attorney has created a portal through LawPay, a safe and secure credit card portal designed for lawyers, allowing Client to pay bills and replenish retainers online.

Promise to Pay Provision

A Promise to Pay clause helps guarantee the client understands and agrees to their contractual obligation to pay your firm for the services performed.

Example:

Once services are engaged, Client recognizes that they are contractually bound to Attorney for their entire fee. All fees paid are nonrefundable and must be paid in full. Client understands that fees paid through the use of a debit card, credit card, or other electronic means cannot be revoked or reversed in any manner by the client after legal services are performed. Refunds, when appropriate, shall be paid by check or other electronic funds transfer from Attorney to Client.

There are two keys to maximizing your accounts receivable at the end of the year. The first is to discuss all expectations related to fees, billing, and payments during client intake. The second is using a secure legal payment solution like LawPay to make it easy for clients to pay.

See for yourself what LawPay can offer your firm. Get started today!

 

 

St. Mary’s University School of Law to launch first fully online J.D. program approved by ABA in fall 2022

Tue, 09/14/2021 - 13:47

St. Mary’s University School of Law will launch the first fully online juris doctor program approved by the American Bar Association in fall 2022.

St. Mary’s University plans to enroll 25 students in the first cohort of the five-year pilot program. The St. Mary’s University program is the first to offer all credit-bearing courses online by design.

“As the only law school serving San Antonio and the southernmost school serving South Texas, St. Mary’s Law has a tradition of excellence in legal education stretching back to its founding in 1927,” said Patricia Roberts, St. Mary’s Law Dean and Charles E. Cantú Distinguished Professor of Law. “This new fully online J.D. program—the one and only of its kind—exemplifies how St. Mary’s Law continues to lead with tradition and innovation.”

The online law degree with take about four years to compete and tuition will be comparable to the school’s existing in-person, part-time program. Students will be able to complete half of the first-year courses on their own schedule and the other in real time online.

For more information about St. Mary’s University School of Law, go to law.stmarytx.edu.

Shannon Davis Hunter selected as Leadership Houston Class XL fellow

Mon, 09/13/2021 - 10:24

Shannon Davis Hunter, of Coats Rose, has been selected as a fellow in Leadership Houston Class XL.

Leadership Houston XL is a 10-month signature program for community leaders that will culminate with a civic class project to effect positive change and the development of individual, personal plans for future civic engagement.

Hunter is a partner in Coats Rose’s Affordable Housing and Community Development Practice in Houston. She represents public housing authorities, housing developers, syndicators, and investors with leveraging various products, including HOPE VI funds, low-income housing tax credits, private activity tax-exempt bonds, investment syndications, and conventional loans. For more information about Leadership Houston, go to leadershiphouston.org.

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